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Daily News Analysis

Explained: What is New Zealand’s euthanasia or assisted dying act?

1st November, 2020 International Example

Context: As per preliminary referendum results, a majority of voters in New Zealand have voted in favour of the End of Life Choice Act 2019.

  • One of the referendums was on cannabis legalisation and control, which over 53 per cent of the voters voted against.
  • The second referendum asked the public to vote on whether the End of Life Choice Act 2019 should come into force.

What is the End of Life Choice Act 2019?

  • The act is meant to give certain terminally ill people the option of requesting medical assistance to end their lives and to establish a lawful process for assisting eligible persons who are able to exercise that option.

What is assisted dying?

  • As per the Act, assisted dying means when a person’s doctor or nurse gives them medication to relieve their suffering by bringing on death or when a person takes the medication themselves.
  • It interprets assisted dying as referring to both euthanasia and assisted suicide.
  • While the former refers to the act of deliberately ending a person’s life to end their suffering, the latter refers to assisting a person to kill themselves.
  • In some countries such as in the UK, both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal. In the UK, while euthanasia is regarded as manslaughter or murder, assisted suicide is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. However, trying to kill yourself is not an illegal act in the country.
  • As per New Zealand’s act, the provisions of the law are limited to terminally ill people and are subject to the fulfillment of various criteria.

What is the eligibility criteria for assisted dying?

  • In order to be eligible for assisted dying, the individual must be 18 years or older, be a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand, suffer from a terminal illness that is likely to end their life in less than six months, have a significant and ongoing decline in physical capability, experience unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and they should be able to make an informed decision about assisted dying.
  • The individual should meet all of the criteria to be eligible.

How is a person’s competence to make an informed decision measured?

  • The individual should understand information about assisted dying, remember information about assisted dying in order to make the decision, use or weigh up information about assisted dying to inform their decision and communicate their decision about assisted dying in some way.

What is not allowed under this law?

  • A person is not eligible for assisted dying if they are suffering from a mental disorder or a mental illness, if they have a disability of any kind or they are of advanced age.
  • Even so, a health practitioner is now allowed to suggest that a person consider dying while providing a health service to that individual.

What are the methods of assisted dying?

  • There are four as per the Act. These include ingestion, intravenous delivery, ingestion through a tube or injection.
  • At the chosen time of receiving the medication, the person can either say no or delay the process.

Where else is assisted dying legal?

  • Assisted dying is legal in parts of Australia, Canada, Colombia, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Switzerland and some states in the US.